When Your Bug Out Location Becomes Ground Zero

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By John J. Woods •  5 min read

Other than damage to your primary residence, perhaps the worst news to get when a natural disaster survivalhits is finding out it clobbered your own private Bug Out camp site.  A lot of preppers work endless hours and spend considerable funding to secure a good Bug Out location, then build a suitable escape hideout.  If it becomes the target of a natural disaster, then it is really gut wrenching.

Last April 30 on a Sunday night with most people home and resting for the start of another work week, a strong storm front drove its way right down State Highway 51 in Holmes County, Mississippi right into the town of Durant.  Significant damage resulted including one death of a man in a tornado collapsed house in town.

The tornado brought winds in excess of 100 miles per hour as the twister drove north nearly parallel to the highway.  The path of the storm was predicted to have been roughly 600 yards wide when it hit the town and the surrounding area.  Structural damage to homes and businesses along with wooded timber was heavy.

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Days later FEMA assessed the city wide damage and decided not to provide storm recovery funding or epic banner 250x250 evolution of portable water filtrationlow interest loans for businesses to rebuild.  Holmes County is one of the poorest counties in the state.  Residents of Durant were basically left to fend for themselves. The state has provided minimal help as well.

Ground Zero

The 600 acre parcel of land that includes our Bug Out camp was hit by this tornado.  The northwest corner of the site butts up against the city limits, but it is protected by a natural timber barrier for several hundred yards including a thick, wet, snaky swamp.  That barrier was mainly laid to waste in the loss of significant timber damage from the storm.

Though the Bug Out camp proper sits nearly a half mile away, it too, received much damage from the tornado’s high twisting winds.  Lucky enough, none of the four structural cabins were directly hit, but residual wind damage choked the camp area with downed trees and limbs.  In many ways we were shown some measure of luck, but the site faces months of heavy clean-up work to make it serviceable again as a suitable Bug Out site.

Initial Damage Assessments

Where to begin.  We were on the ground in camp soon after notice was given by a local contact of the suspected damage.  The front secure gate was not damaged, but the main road in was littered with limbs and timber trash.  Upon entering camp, a big oak tree was pushed over right inside the camp area with the oak root ball leaving a huge hole that was full of water from the rains.  Two other trees downed in the camp blocked the main camp circle drive and even walking was difficult with all the tree trash thrown everywhere.

Two foresters were dispatched for assessments to the timber damage.  The news was not good.  Most of the big oaks lying on the ground now had trunks twisted by the wind action of the tornado, thus ruining the tree to be used for board timber.  Once the internal fibers of the trees are twisted like that, none of it can be used for construction lumber.

Though a lot of trees were down all over the entire property, not enough were damaged to entice a logger to come in for a salvage harvest.  They are only interested in a high log timber count to make it economically feasible to haul the logs off the property.  This would mean a wholesale timber clear cut.  And doing so would ruin any easy area access in the forested areas.  Quite a dilemma.

The other issue involved property wide access trails.  Virtually every trail had trees of some size pushed over blocking ATV travel across the entire property.  This was not acceptable at all.  We need access to nearby hunting and fishing opportunities as part of the Bug Out camp long term survival prospects.

Decision-Making Priorities

The prepper team is still seeking solutions to the downed timber issues.  A prevailing idea now is just to bug out locationleave the downed timber alone and to let nature take its course.  This is rather than having the entire forested areas further ruined by a clear cut timber harvest.  First on the list of “To Do” is to clean up the camp site area.  The downed trees there and on nearby trails can be cleared with a chainsaw and turned into camp firewood.  We have to have clear movement access around camp.

Next is to clear primary ATV trails, again by sawing downed trees to allow easy passage via ATVs.  Trees too big to cut with a chainsaw will have to be moved by a tractor bucket and/or the hiring of a dozer to push the trails clear.  This means money of course with funds not being recovered by the downed timber.  Mother Nature dealt a lousy hand of cards on this one.

Events like this are heartbreaking to say the least.  However, recovery of the Bug Out camp is paramount.  The site serves us not only as a secure escape location, but also recreational opportunities and also a feasible way to secure supplemental foods via hunting and fishing.  In this regard, we have little to no choice but to recover from the storm damage.  Such is just one more example of situations that can develop from a SHTF event of which a tornado is definitely one.

Photos by: AMC - Walking Dead


John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here.